Elite police force to protect Tour de France
The Tour de France is normally secured by a force of police, the gendarmes, but for the first time this year the force will include an highly specialised elite police force, the GIGN (Groupe d'intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale), which includes a counter-terrorism branch.
The gendarmes have long kept the public safe from the normal dangers that surround a major, rolling festival like the Tour - they keep the fans from being hurt by passing cars or riders. Since the terrorist attacks in Paris killed 130 people last November, the terrorist alert level has been high all across France, extra security measures will be employed for the Tour de France.
Earlier this week the Interior Ministry posted a graphic on Twitter describing the security plan for Tour de France. In addition to the GIGN squad, riders and teams will be protected throughout the entire race by a 12-person police force, and the race will be followed by 50 members of the Republican Guard on motorcycles, with command posts at each stage finish managed by the various host cities.
The GIGN come in addition to the more than 23,000 police and gendarmes that handle general road safety and traffic control. When the security plan was rolled out in May, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said they would leave nothing to chance.
"Everyone understands that this year, the Tour de France will take place in a particular context," Cazeneuve said, referring to the 'very high' terrorist threat level that has been in place since the Paris attacks.
"Given the exceptional characteristics of this event, which lasts a month (sic) and covers a 3500 km course, our objective is to ensure optimal safety for the riders and the public, without altering its festive atmosphere.
"This goal, in truth, is not new since the engagement of the Interior Ministry goes back to the very origin of this event in 1903," he added.
The numbers are only slightly up from 2007, when there were 10 police in a permanent task force, 45 Garde Républicaine motorcycles, and 23,000 gendarmes.
WADA suspends Kazakhstan anti-doping lab
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced today it has suspended the accreditation of the Anti-Doping Laboratory in Almaty, Kazakhstan over "non-conformities". The lab will be prohibited from carrying out anti-doping analysis of urine and blood samples for four months. During that time, any samples will be transported securely to a different WADA-accredited lab.
"The decision to suspend the laboratory is a direct result of the more stringent quality assessment procedures enacted by WADA to ensure laboratories maintain the highest standards," a press release from WADA explained.
The lab will be required to address any issues during the suspension period, then it may apply for reinstatement.
The announcement follows the suspension of labs in Beijing, Lisbon, Bloemfontein in South Africa, Madrid, and Olympic Games hosts Rio de Janiero in Brazil. WADA president Craig Reedie said earlier this year that the suspensions will have no impact on the anti-doping procedures.
“It is important for athletes to note that, as a result of these suspensions, all samples will now be transported securely to one of the remaining 31 WADA-accredited laboratories worldwide, thereby ensuring that there are no gaps in the anti-doping sample analysis procedures and that the integrity of the samples is fully maintained,” Reedie said last month.
Oranje Peloton extends sponsorship with Dutch Pro Continental team
Oranje Peloton has signed on with Roompot to extend sponsorship of the Dutch Pro Continental team for at least two more years, the team announced this week. Roompot re-upped its commitment to the two-year-old team earlier this year.
The team was founded last year and notched three victories as Dylan Groenewegen lead the way with victories at the Arnhem Vennendaal Classic and Brussels Cycling Classic. Maurits Lammertink earned the first-year team’s third win with a stage at the Tour de Limousin.
Groenewegen left for LottoNL-Jumbo this year and will debut at the Tour de France later this week, but the team’s addition of Pieter Weening in the offseason has paid big dividends so far.
Weening took a stage win and the overall at the Tour of Norway in May, then followed it up earlier this month with a stage win at the Tour de Suisse. Lammertink added to the team’s win tally with a victory at the Skoda Luxembourg Tour, while Jesper Asselman won Ronde van Drenthe, and Wesley Kreder took a stage at Ster ZLM Toer.
Axeon adds to national championship tally for a total of six
Axeon Hagens Berman now has six national championship jerseys in the family after Tao Geogheagn Hart and Krists Neilands earned two more over the weekend. Geoghegan Hart won his first British U23 road race title on Sunday by finishing sixth in the elite road race won by Adam Blythe (Tinkoff), while Nielands added a Latvian road race title to go along with the time trial jersey he earned last week.
Those three jerseys go along with Ruben Guerreiro's win in the Portugues U23 road race, Eddie Dunbar's Irish time trial title and Greg Daniel's US pro road race title to set a team record: 23 victories on the season to date.
"I think it is another record for us to have this many national champions and especially to have Greg Daniel have one in the elite category," Merckx said. "Like I have said before, it has been a great season, and the guys continue to keep pushing forward."
The jersey collecting may not be over yet, however, as the US U23 championships are coming up later this week in Louisville, Kentucky. Axeon Hagens Berman is sending a strong contingent of a dozen riders, including Daniel and U23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Logan Owen.